Sue Breakell on Negotiating the Archive (Breakell, 2008)– summary and my thoughts
- What is an archive? A space where things are hidden? Rows of impenetrable boxes? A collective memory bank (the National Archive).
- To deprive oneself of the archive is to lose one’s memory – but can the sheer volume become overwhelming?
- If there is too much information does the ‘archive’ become more valuable, the most important part?
- A professional archive is a collection of historical records relating to something and/or the place where the record is kept.
- Popular meaning – any group of gathered objects
- Ketalaar- ‘By the People, of the People, for the People’ (Ketelaar, 2003)
- The significance of an archive can depend on what it contains, but also how it is arranged, and the relationships of objects within it (which may change).
- An archive is (or should be) more than just a collection, a set of traces that each throw light on the rest
- An archivist should describe, but not interfere. But looking at the archive cannot be unbiased, what you see depends on both your interests and what you are looking for.
- Curtin University – archives are frozen in time… linked to the past but also carried forward ….as they are re-presented and used
- The context of the items is important, where did it come from? how was it created? A document is what remains – but is only part of the original event. Parts of the event will always be absent leading to ambiguity (Derrida). There are always gaps.
- Why do we want archives?
- An illusion of truth?
- Steedman’s point – ‘the past is searched for something …. that confirms the searcher in his or her sense of self’(Steedman, 2006)
- They give layers of meaning to life
- Archives can be used to create personal histories (Goshka Macuga) – to find one’s identity when creating something
- The act of remembrance involves both storage and retrieval. Traces of things that we respond to, reflections of ourselves in the world.
Breakell, S. (2008) Perspectives: Negotiating the Archive – Tate Papers. At: https://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/09/perspectives-negotiating-the-archive (Accessed 31/07/2020).
Ketelaar, E. (2003) “Being digital in people’s archives”, Archives & Manuscripts, 31(2), pp. 8-22. Available at: https://publications.archivists.org.au/index.php/asa/article/view/9661 (Accessed: 31July2020).
Steedman, C. (2006) Dust. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
2 thoughts on “Thinking about Archives”